The Deception of Ease: Reflections on Jeremiah 44:11-19
Far too often Christians offer Jesus as a solution to problems he never promised to fix:
Come to Jesus and your financial problems will disappear. Come to Jesus and you’ll get a job, find the spouse of your dreams, and be able to have children. Come to Jesus and you won’t be homeless anymore or your debt burden will go away. They make Jesus into nothing more than a genie in a bottle that can make all their problems disappear.
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. Jesus wants us to ask him for help. In the model prayer he shows us that we ought to pray for our daily bread and for the ability to fight against temptation. Furthermore, he doesn’t just want us to ask for help, he commands us to ask for help. But, he never promises that he’ll give us everything we ask for or that life will get easier if we follow him.
If we offer Jesus to others as a quick fix to life’s problems, then we have to deal with the fall out when things don’t get better. In other words, what if things get worse when they come to Jesus? What if their debt increases, their fiance breaks off the engagement, the infertility continues, and the homeless man gets kicked out of the shelter? If we make Jesus nothing more than a solution to their earthly problems, then their natural response will be, “I’m not any better off with Jesus than I was without him.”
God’s people, specifically a remnant of Judah, had come to a similar conclusion in Jeremiah’s day. In chapter 44, Jeremiah rebukes the remnant of Judah who had fled to Egypt because, while there, they were worshiping the “queen of heaven.” He warns the Judeans that God intended to punish them for turning away from him and looking instead to this so-called, “queen of heaven.” How did they respond to Jermiah’s warning? They tell Jeremiah they’re not going to listen to him and they plan to keep doing exactly what they did before: “We will not listen to you, but we will do everything we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did” (Jeremiah 44:16-17)
Why would these Judeans refuse to listen to Jeremiah’s warning against their idol worship? We don’t have to speculate because they give a clear explanation: life was easier when they worshiped the queen of heaven. Verses 17-18, “for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But, since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and famine.”
This remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt were going to do whatever they thought made their life easier. It didn’t matter to them if it was the queen of heaven, Yahweh, or Thor. They just wanted whatever they believed to make them prosperous.
When we try to convince people to follow Jesus by promising he will give them a life of ease, then we make following Jesus transactional. If someone or something else makes a better offer, then they will move on to the next thing they hope will bring solutions to their problems. Devotion becomes nothing more than pragmatism.
Jesus, however, offers something greater and exponentially more glorious than being able to pay our bills. So, let’s not reduce the eternal, life-giving Son of God to a glorified genie. He offers us perfect joy and satisfaction in him for all eternity instead of the eternal condemnation we all deserve. Furthermore, the path to eternal joy is often filled with suffering and trials for the very purpose of getting our eyes off the things of this world and on the glory of Jesus – the only reality that can bring eternal satisfaction to our souls. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
So, when we share the gospel or lead someone in discipleship, we shouldn’t promise what Jesus doesn’t. The promises Jesus made are glorious in and of themselves – let’s not try to make them better. We can’t.